Acting President of the United States
|Acting President of the
United States of America
|Appointer||President of the United States|
|Constituting instrument||Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution|
|First holder||George H. W. Bush (1985)|
|Deputy||Vice President of the United States
Acting Vice President of the United States
The Acting President of the United States is a post that was created after the adoption of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution on January 23, 1933, but it was further defined by the Twenty-fifth Amendment on February 10, 1967. To date, only two people have ever been Acting President: George H. W. Bush in 1985 and Dick Cheney in 2002 and 2007. In all three cases, the sitting President invoked Section 3 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment for either colon cancer surgery or a colonoscopy. However, John Tyler was seen by some of his contemporaries, such as John Quincy Adams, as an acting president. No person has ever become Acting President under Section 3 of the Twentieth Amendment and Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment has never been invoked.
Section 3 of the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President. If a President shall not have been chosen before the time fixed for the beginning of his term, or if the President elect shall have failed to qualify, then the Vice President elect shall act as President until a President shall have qualified; and the Congress may by law provide for the case wherein neither a President elect nor a Vice President elect shall have qualified, declaring who shall then act as President, or the manner in which one who is to act shall be selected, and such person shall act accordingly until a President or Vice President shall have qualified.
The Twentieth Amendment was passed by Congress on March 2, 1932 and was adopted on January 23, 1933.
Sections 3 and 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution state:
Section 3. Whenever the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that he is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, and until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary, such powers and duties shall be discharged by the Vice President as Acting President.
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress, within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session, within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
After being proposed on July 6, 1965, the Twenty-fifth Amendment was adopted on February 10, 1967.
|“||In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President...||”|
On April 4, 1841, William Henry Harrison was the first sitting President to die in office. The Cabinet decided that Vice President John Tyler would assume the responsibilities of President under the title "Vice-President acting President". Instead of accepting the Cabinet's proposed title, Tyler asserted that the Constitution gave him full and unqualified powers of office and had himself sworn in immediately as President, setting a critical precedent for an orderly transfer of power following a President's death. However, there were members of Congress such as Representative John Quincy Adams who felt that Tyler should be a caretaker under the title of "Acting President", or remain vice president in name. Senator Henry Clay saw Tyler as the "vice-president" and his presidency as a mere "regency".
Since the Twentieth Amendment allows Congress to pass laws that deal with the unavailability of the President-elect and Vice President-elect on Inauguration Day, Congress passed the Presidential Succession Act of 1947, which placed the Speaker of the House as first in position as Acting President until a President-elect or Vice President-elect qualifies for office.
The Twenty-fifth Amendment was invoked for the first time at 11:28 am on July 13, 1985, when President Ronald Reagan underwent colon cancer surgery while under the anesthesia. Vice President George H. W. Bush became the first Acting President in United States history until 7:22 pm, when Reagan reclaimed his authority. The Twenty-fifth Amendment was invoked for a second time at 7:09 am on June 29, 2002, when President George W. Bush received a colonoscopy. For two hours and fifteen minutes, Vice President Dick Cheney was the Acting President. Cheney became Acting President for the second time on July 21, 2007, while Bush received a second colonoscopy.
|Acting President||Term of office||Party||President|
|George H. W. Bush
(94 years old)
|July 13, 1985
|July 13, 1985
(77 years old)
|June 29, 2002
|June 29, 2002
|Republican||George W. Bush|
|July 21, 2007
|July 21, 2007
In popular culture
- In the Designated Survivor episode "Warriors", President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) invokes the Twenty-fifth Amendment to undergo surgery after an assassination attempt, making Vice President Peter MacLeish (Ashley Zukerman) the Acting President.
- In season 4, episode 4 of House of Cards, President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) was shot in an assassination attempt, making Vice President Donald Blythe (Reed Birney) the Acting President.
- In season 5, episode 5 of House of Cards, Vice President Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) becomes Acting President while awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives to determine the next President.
- In the Madam Secretary episode "Sound and Fury", the majority of the Cabinet votes to invoke the Twenty-fifth Amendment after an uncharacteristically hawkish President Dalton (Keith Carradine) orders his Secretary of Defense (Mike Pniewski) to fire nuclear missiles at Russia's satellites after what appears to be a Russian sonic attack on the United States Embassy in Bulgaria. This action makes Vice President Teresa Hurst (Jayne Atkinson) become Acting President.
- In the film Olympus Has Fallen, Speaker Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) becomes Acting President as the President and Vice President are held hostage by terrorists.
- In The West Wing episode "Twenty Five", President Josiah Bartlet (Martin Sheen) invokes the Twenty-Fifth Amendment as his daughter Zoey had been kidnapped. Without a Vice President, Speaker Glenallen Walken (John Goodman) becomes Acting President.
- Acting Vice President of the United States
- United States presidential line of succession
- United States presidential line of succession in fiction
Notes and references
- "U.S. Constitution: 20th Amendment". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Larson, Edward J.; Shesol, Jeff. "The Twentieth Amendment". National Constitution Center. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- "Presidential Vacancy and Disability" (PDF). United States Government Printing Office. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Mount, Steve (November 11, 2010). "Ratification of Constitutional Amendments". U.S. Constitution. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "U.S. Constitution: Article II". Cornell University Law School. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "President Harrison Dies–April 4, 1841". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Dinnerstein, p. 447.
- "John Tyler: Life in Brief". Miller Center of Public Affairs. Archived from the original on January 31, 2017. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Chitwood, pp. 203–07.
- Seager, pp. 142, 151.
- Bomboy, Scott (January 6, 2017). "What constitutional duties are placed on the President Elect?". National Constitution Center. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
- Boyd, Gerald M. (July 14, 1985). "Reagan Transfers Power to Bush for 8-Hour Period of 'Incapacity'". The New York Times. Washington, D.C. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Maugh II, Thomas H. (July 27, 1985). "Reagan's Surgery for Colon Cancer Breaks a Taboo, Brings a Floodtide of Calls". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "President George W. Bush's Historic Transfer of Power" (PDF). NBC. June 29, 2002. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Baker, Peter (July 21, 2007). "Bush Will Temporarily Hand Reins To Cheney". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- "List of Vice-Presidents Who Served as "Acting" President Under the 25th Amendment". University of California, Santa Barbara. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Rahman, Ray (March 8, 2017). "Designated Survivor recap: 'Warriors'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Power, Ed (March 6, 2016). "House of Cards, season 4, episode 4: nine talking points including the biggest shock yet". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Renner, Ethan (June 1, 2017). "'House of Cards' Season 5, Episode 5 recap: Make way for Claire". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Rice, Lynette (December 17, 2017). "Madam Secretary creator says Elizabeth McCord will consider running for president". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Lowry, Brian (January 11, 2018). "'Madam Secretary' explores 25th Amendment episode". CNN. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Eggertson, Chris (January 15, 2018). "Inside 'Madam Secretary's' Trump-Like Impeachment Episode". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 15, 2018.
- Olympus Has Fallen Film Clip "You Are The Acting President". Sony Pictures Entertainment. July 17, 2013. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
- Agard, Chancellor (May 12, 2017). "The West Wing: Aaron Sorkin reflects on his final episode". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
- Chitwood, Oliver Perry (1964) [Orig. 1939, Appleton-Century]. John Tyler, Champion of the Old South. Russell & Russell. OCLC 424864.
- Dinnerstein, Leonard (October 1962). "The Accession of John Tyler to the Presidency". The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. 70 (4): 447. JSTOR 4246893.
- Seager, Robert, II (1963). And Tyler Too: A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler. New York: McGraw-Hill. OCLC 424866.